You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

David Durenberger, moderate Republican senator, dies at 88

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 1/31/2023 Associated Press
David Durenberger in 1993. © AP/AP David Durenberger in 1993.

Former U.S. senator David Durenberger, a Minnesota Republican who espoused a moderate-to-progressive brand of politics and criticized the GOP after his political career, died Jan. 31 at his home in St. Paul, Minn. He was 88.

His spokesman, Tom Horner, confirmed the death but did not provide a specific cause.

Mr. Durenberger — a former executive secretary to Gov. Harold LeVander (R), former corporate lawyer and former captain in the Army Reserve — won a U.S. Senate seat in 1978.

In a state with a large Democratic base, he followed a moderate path for much of the Reagan administration in the 1980s, supporting the administration’s tax and budget cuts but also publicly criticizing the energy policies and defense spending.

He served three terms and championed health-care changes.

In Washington, he pushed proposals to expand Medicare benefits, protect rights for disabled people, including the Americans With Disabilities Act, and to promote gender equity.

Mr. Durenberger’s first wife, Judith McGlumphy, died of breast cancer in 1970, leaving him a widower raising four sons.

When he ran for office in the late 1970s, his sons helped stuff envelopes at their dining room table, joined parades and helped on the campaign.

As he rose through the Senate, Mr. Durenberger went through troubled periods in his personal life. He separated from his wife, Penny, in 1985 — a personal agony he openly discussed with several reporters at the time. He married Susan Foote, a former member of his staff, in 1995.

Mr. Durenberger’s career took a downturn in 1990. He was unanimously censured by the Senate following an Ethics Committee investigation into payments he received for book royalties and federal reimbursements for stays in a Minneapolis condo. In 1995, Mr. Durenberger also pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor charges related to the condo payments.

He decided not to run for reelection in 1994. Following his exit from politics, he worked with a number of initiatives focused on health-care policy. As chair of the National Institute of Health Policy at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business, he addressed systemic health-care problems.

As the Republican Party tilted toward fiscal conservatives focused on slashing government programs, Mr. Durenberger became a critic. He told a Minnesota political podcast in 2005 that Democrats are “better equipped to carry the day” on health-care policy, though he said at the time he would not become a Democrat.

In the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, he endorsed Democrats Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden over Donald Trump. And in 2018, he wrote a book with political reporter Lori Sturdevant titled, “When Republicans Were Progressive.” It mourned what the book called a nearly extinct wing of the GOP in which lawmakers prided themselves on bipartisanship and sought to assist vulnerable people.

David Ferdinand Durenberger was born in St. Cloud, Minn., on Aug. 19, 1934. His father was athletic director at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., and his mother was an executive secretary at the school.

Mr. Durenberger graduated from Saint John’s in 1955 and from University of Minnesota law school in 1959. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.


More From The Washington Post

The Washington Post
The Washington Post
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon